Local fighters share spotlight with Pacquiao

Local boxers with Manny Paccqiuao. L-R: Logan Chinoy, Simon Burch, Dariel Ebanks, Hopkin Ebanks, Pacquiao, Dan Hewitt-Dean, Peter Lewison.

It was billed as one of the biggest sporting events to hit these shores with Manny Pacquiao, one of the most prominent figures in international boxing, in attendance. That allure drew more than 3,000 people to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex for the Island Rumble Boxing Challenge Saturday night.

The boxing superstar was on hand as some of Cayman’s best amateur fighters stepped into the ring against opponents from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Even before his entrance to sit ringside with Premier Alden McLaughlin and Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, anticipation filled the air, as there was a buzz around the ground. Ringside was a who’s who of Cayman community for an event that had as much entertainment outside the ring as it did inside.

Simon Hurry (black trunks) and Lee Murray (white trunks) featured in a white collar bout.

First into the ring were ‘white collar’ boxers James Burch and Logan Chinoy. Burch, a partner at international law firm Walkers, hooked up with Chinoy of Cayman Fight Factory for the charity fight to raise more than $10,000 for the Hart for Hearts Foundation.

The crowd was amped for action and cheered the fighters on through their two-round bout, which ended in a draw. “It was a good, technical fight and we had the perfect result. We both fought as hard as we could, we got a draw at the end and what an absolutely incredible occasion,” Burch said afterward.

Simon Hurry and Lee Murray were next up for another ‘white collar’ bout. After an action packed two rounds in which both fighters landed heavy shots, the crowed was called upon to cheer for a winner and gave Hurry the edge.

Pacquiao, who’s held tittles in eight weight divisions, was brought to the ring with much fanfare akin to his iconic status beyond the sport. Though the event was billed as having “Pac Man” as the host, he spoke briefly to the crowd to thank them for coming before taking his seat, where he was swarmed by fans wanting to snap pictures with arguably the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter.

The boxing superstar sat ringside with the Premier and Sports Minister and their wives.

National anthems of the United States and Philippines preceded a dynamic rendition of the Cayman Islands national song by local artistes Rico Rolando and Andrea Rivera.

Amid the action happening ringside, it was time for members of the Cayman Islands Boxing Association’s amateur programme to shine under the bright lights with the reigning World Boxing Organisation’s welterweight champion on one side of the ring and rising middleweight star, Luis Arias on the other.

In the only female fight of the night, Cayman’s Chambria Dalhouse picked up her second win with a unanimous decision over Jamaica’s Kerron Thomas in a super featherweight bout. The pair met in Kingston two months ago, when Dalhouse emerged the winner. Thomas then went on to win a gold medal at the Caribbean Boxing Development Tournament in Barbados last month. Dalhouse told reporters the win showed her that she’s on par with the best in the region.

Trainer Donie Anglin with Chambria Dalhouse.

The sequel ended the same as the original, as early aggression from the Caymanian put her ahead. Despite slowing in the second round, the UCCI student bounced back in the third to seal the deal. “That girl is so incredible and full of energy but that’s what we expected from her,” said Nayon ‘Donie’ Anglin, one of the trainers in Cayman’s corner.

The next bout turned out to be the fight of the night. It pitted Cayman’s Hopkin Ebanks against Cameron Sweeting of the Bahamas. Ebanks’ first fight in front of a home crowd since late 2015 nearly ended in catastrophe for the young West Bay native when he was rocked by a powerful right strike from the Bahamian within the first 20 seconds. Ebanks was sent reeling against the ropes before hitting the canvas, drawing gasps from the crowd.

After a standing eight count, Ebanks was ready for action and showed heart as he recovered well to the point that it was Sweeting who was counted out after taking a bruising late in the first round.

Hopkin Ebanks recovered after an early knockdown for a first round TKO.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in amateur boxing. I was really shocked,” Anglin said. “I was trying to tell him float like a butterfly and sting like a bee but he was all messed up but he recovered and came back strong and do what he had to do,” the trainer added.

“Hopkin is back, baby!” Ebanks said after registering a TKO (technical knockout). He spoke about the adversity he overcame to bounce back. “I said that man hit hard but I said ‘nah, I got to get up’, I have to get back in this ring and gain what’s mine.”

He said he was undaunted by the huge turnout compared to the few hundred who generally show up to boxing events. “The crowd never really got to me because this is my hometown…I know everybody is showing love out here and I [didn’t] have any reason to be nervous.”

A prolonged entertainment break saw many of the spectators occupying general admission seating leave the venue, likely due to the main draw having exited the stage and thinking he had left the venue but he eventually returned to ringside.

Visiting boxers from the Bahamas and Jamaica with their coaches.

In the next bout, Dan Hewitt-Dean (Cayman) and Davian Smith (Bahamas) met in a light heavyweight match-up. After an even first round in which the most noticeable moment was Smith knocking out Hewitt-Dean’s mouthguard with a vicious left upper cut, Smith dominated the second and landed a devastating combination that visibly hurt Hewitt-Dean, prompting referee Roland Gamez to end the fight. Smith won by TKO.

Another break for entertainment delayed the proceedings and during a Filipino cultural presentation, the heavens opened up. With the persistent downpour drenching the venue, the final amateur fight was called off. Both Dariel Ebanks, who won gold in Barbados for Cayman, and his Bahamian opponent, Israel Johnson, were disappointed that they did not get to meet.

An exhibition between local professional, Peter ‘Lightning’ Lewison and Canadian Steven Wilcox did not materialize. Wilcox told CaymanSportsBuzz.com that despite the bout being promoted, he was not informed prior to coming to Cayman that he would be lacing up the gloves for an exhibition. Another advertised exhibition featuring Arias, the IBF-USBA and WBC-USNBC champion, did not happen.

Andrea Rivera and Rico Rolando sang the Cayman Islands national song.

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden told CaymanSportsBuzz.com that overall, he was pleased with what he saw on the night. “I think we’ve just raised the bar. This is taking it to another level. I think we have a way to go but certainly, we have opened the door for people to come into the country and no only see Manny Pacquiao…but we have an opportunity to do great things,” Mr Bodden said.

Earlier in the night, promoter Matthew Leslie was elated about how things turned out. “I’m so happy to see Manny Pacquiao enjoying himself, people are getting pictures with him and enjoying themselves. It’s such a great night,” he said.

“I just want to thank Cayman for supporting this and this is just the beginning because what we have proven here tonight is that we can put on a world class event,” Leslie added.

While here, Pacquiao also attended a ground-breaking for a boxing gym in Bodden Town and visited Health City Cayman Islands. A planned trip to the Brac on Sunday was called off but Pacquiao, a devout Christian, attended the predominantly Filipino Faith Christian Church in George Town before leaving the island. He has promised to make another visit to the Cayman Islands.

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